The National Hockey League’s B.C.-born senior officiating manager is inside the “NHL bubble” in Toronto now.
Rob Shick, originally from Port Alberni, crossed through the barriers on Thursday, July 23, and won’t come out now until the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs—possibly not until October.
National Hockey League players began arriving in the twin NHL bubbles of Toronto and Edmonton on Sunday, July 26. Twenty-four teams will compete in a restart of the season, which was interrupted in March thanks to the coronavirus epidemic.
“I’ll be there until anywhere from 45-50 days by the time we get out of there,” Shick said last week from his home in Florida.
“I’ll be looking after the officials that are in Toronto, then I’ll be interacting with the coaches and general managers—all inside the bubble.”
Security will be tight inside the two NHL sites, with security fencing separating NHL teams and personnel from the general population. Everyone inside will be undergoing daily COVID-19 testing.
“Once we’re in the bubble we’re not allowed to go out,” Shick explained.
Each bubble will be self-contained, with 14 restaurants for players and staff as well as concierge service for players to receive delivery. An outdoor recreation facility has been created at BMO Field in Toronto, where the Toronto FC plays MLS soccer and the Argonauts ordinarily play their Canadian Football League games.
“It will be quite extensive,” he said. The hockey arena where games will be played has been set up with “20 or 30” cameras, he said, which will give fans watching on television a superior experience. “It’s going to look amazing on TV.”
Shick is the compliance officer for his group of officials, and must check in daily with the NHL to let them know everyone has had a temperature checked before they leave the hotel, have had their daily COVID-19 nasal swab and have been wearing their masks.
Shick should have been in Port Alberni earlier in July for the annual Charity Golf Classic at the Alberni Golf Club, which he started in 1994. He returns to play in it every year.
“Normally I would have already been up there for the golf tournament, which is the highlight of my year: getting out of the weather in Florida, seeing friends and family, and raising money for charity. This is a different time and we’ve had to make adjustments.
“Hopefully next year I’ll be back up for the tournament.”
The golf club hasn’t found a replacement for raising money for the various charities that benefited, including BC Children’s Hospital, said Gerry Fagan of the organizing committee.
“We’ve had a few people from out of town show up who are regulars at the tournament,” Fagan added. Former Alberni Valley Bulldog assistant coach Adam Hayduk, CTV Morning Live co-anchor Jason Pires, Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel and Tony Powell—Shick’s cousin from Campbell River—have all come to play golf this summer; “they all said that they missed the tournament,” Fagan said.
Shick spent the early part of the pandemic at home in Florida, but said the resulting disease—COVID-19—hasn’t affected him personally beyond a seven-day quarantine. His wife, Lynda Frye, is a doctor specializing in women’s breast cancer, and one of his sons is also a frontline worker. “My wife works in the (health-care) business so she sees more than I do, and my son is a firefighter now.
“They see more on the front lines but are fine for now.”
Shick worked on nailing down the officiating side of the NHL restart and Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s been challenging, he noted, because there aren’t many direct flights to bring referees to the NHL bubble cities. “We’ve all had to have tests for COVID-19 before leaving. I’ve had three tests in one week and will be tested again on a daily basis in Toronto. We’ll be wearing masks. We’re settled right into a hotel.
“It’s going to be challenging, but at the same time exciting to get hockey on TV for everybody.”
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